The Houston 100: From Johnny Ace to Stevie Ray Vaughn
70.“Pledging My Love,” Johnny Ace, 1955.
This was a posthumous hit for Ace, whose life was terminated weeks before after an infamous backstage drunken gunplay incident at City Auditorium here on Christmas Eve. Would rank higher were its Houston connections a little greater – even more so than labelmate Bobby “Blue” Bland, Ace was a Memphis artist.
69. “Juana La Cubana,” Fito Olivares, 1982. After moving to Houston from his native Mexican state of Tamaulipas, original Mexican cumbia king Olivares formed Fito Olivares y su Grupo La Pura Sabrosura (Group of Pure Flavor) and cut this single, which has since become a standard. It gave rise to a movie of the same title south of the border and graced the soundtrack of John Sayles’s classic Lone Star to the north.
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68. “Galveston,” Glen Campbell, 1969. Who among us can take a trip down to our very own city by the bay and not break into a few bars of this Jimmy Webb-penned pop-country smash? I bet if you could monitor the interior of all the cars crossing the causeway, about ten percent of them would have people in them singing about “sea waves crashing” and “cannons flashing.”
67. “Bloody Mary Morning,” Willie Nelson, 1974. This minor country hit for Willie Nelson mentions Houston and also does a good job of capturing the tension and existentialism of commercial flight.
66. “Sharp Dressed Man,” ZZ Top, 1983. One of several hit singles from Eliminator, this was the only one to spawn a briefly-popular catch-phrase – “Every girl’s crazy about a sharp dressed man.” Unsurprisingly, the song has been used to peddle clothes – S&K Suits, specifically.
65.“Frosty,” Albert Collins, 1962.
The Ice Man’s showstopping instrumental was one of the finest examples of a Texas blues shuffle ever committed to wax. Or maybe you like “Snow-Cone II” or “Don’t Lose Your Cool” better…At any rate, the Spanish-tinged funk-blues Collins was putting out in the early and mid-‘60s was ever bit as good as the more famous stuff Booker T. and the MG’s were doing in Memphis.
64. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” BJ Thomas, 1970. Up there with Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” in the “Optimistic songs from Houston” stakes, this one is elevated into the stratosphere by the excellent Burt Bacharach trumpet breakdown in the middle. The #1 smash from Rosenberg’s Thomas is a staple of Hollywood soundtracks, most notably Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but also Clerks 2, Forrest Gump and Spider Man 2, not to mention an episode of The Simpsons.
63. “Crazy,” Patsy Cline, 1961. Legendary honky-tonk weeper would rank higher if Houston connects were stronger. (It was written here by Willie Nelson, but that’s about it.)
62. “Tops Drop,” Fat Pat, 1998. Fun, Funkadelic-like chorus (that mentions Houston) steers this early H-Town slab-hop classic. Ghetto Dreams, Fat Pat’s debut CD that included “Tops Drop,” was released a mere two weeks after the Wreckshop rapper was shot and killed at a Southwest Houston apartment complex.
61. “Texas Flood,” Larry Davis feat. Fenton Robinson, 1958 / Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1983. Before the Stevie Ray version – the title track of a 1983 album and to the end of his days one of his signature tunes – there was a Duke-Peacock rendition co-written by the impeccable Joe Scott. Larry Davis handled lead vocals, while a then-unknown Fenton Robinson played lead guitar.
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